Law360 (June 8, 2020, 7:19 PM EDT) -- 3M Co. on Monday filed its latest trademark lawsuit over price-gouging on N95 masks during the COVID-19 pandemic, suing an Amazon vendor in Los Angeles federal court for selling fake masks at more than 20 times the list price.
The industrial giant accused Mao Yu and several affiliated companies of using "bait-and-switch tactics" and other deceptive behavior to sell more than $350,000 worth of the questionable masks to unsuspecting Amazon users.
"3M brings this lawsuit to protect consumers from being deceived, prevent healthcare providers and procurement officers from wasting their valuable time interacting with illegitimate offers for critical health supplies and stop defendants' future infringement," the company wrote in the complaint.
The case is the latest in a nationwide litigation campaign from 3M — the country's largest producer of N95 masks — that aims to use trademark law to fight price-gouging during the pandemic. But Monday's lawsuit differs from previous lawsuits in key ways.
The earlier cases mostly accused defendants of using confusing tactics to mislead buyers into thinking the companies — and their "unconscionably high prices" — were somehow authorized by 3M. But those cases largely centered on the resale of legitimate 3M masks.
The new case against Yu is a more traditional trademark case, accusing him of using 3M's name and logo to sell outright counterfeit masks.
"3M customers deserve authentic products at fair prices, and this scam is aimed at exploiting the demand for our critical products during the pandemic using 3M's name connected with price gouging and counterfeiting," 3M official Denise Rutherford said in a statement.
The lawsuit was the result of a collaboration with Amazon, which removed Yu's listings and alerted 3M after multiple consumer complaints.
"There is no place for counterfeiting or price gouging on Amazon, and we're proud to be working with 3M to hold these bad actors accountable," Amazon official Dharmesh Mehta said in the same statement.
The defendants could not immediately be located for comment on Monday.
Counting two other cases filed last week, 3M has now filed 12 such trademark cases over price-gouging for N95s, winning five preliminary injunctions and leading to federal criminal charges against a New Jersey defendant.
In the new case, 3M is represented by Kevin Mayer and Andrea D'Ambra of Norton Rose Fulbright US LLP, and by Christopher Weimer of Pirkey Barber PLLC.
Counsel information for Yu and other defendant entities named in the lawsuit — KM Brothers Inc., KMJ Trading Inc. and Supreme Sunshine Inc. — is not yet publicly available.
The case is 3M Company v. KM Brothers Inc. et al, case number 2:20-cv-05049, in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
--Editing by Steven Edelstone.
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